July 16, 2024

Advancing Digital Excellence

Pioneering Technological Innovation

Canadian health-care technology gets a shot in the arm

7 min read

Free apps, AI advancements helping Canucks live healthier lives

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While it’s typically Canadian to not toot our own horn, the country is packed with health-care companies — big and small — with smart solutions to help us live healthier lives.

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By leveraging technology, including AI, we’re able to better access (and understand) our medical scans, keep a digital eye on our aging loved ones living alone at home, use our smartphone’s camera to detect skin cancer and access trustworthy medical videos rather than Googling symptoms across random sites (and panicking at the misdiagnosis).

After all, we’re beyond fortunate to have universal health care in the Great White North, but there are cracks in the system that can be somewhat filled in with a little help from tech.

The following are a handful of homegrown solutions worth checking out.

Pocket Health.
Now free for the basic version, Toronto-based PocketHealth makes it easy to access and share your medical images through a secure website. Photo by Pocket Health Inc.

PocketHealth

Need an MRI, ultrasound, CT scan or X-Ray?

As outdated as it seems, some Canadian hospitals and clinics still hand patients a CD-ROM with medical images on them. Yes, in 2024. Patients likely don’t have anything to view this on and you may need to hand-deliver the scans to your doctor. Now free for the basic version, Toronto-based PocketHealth makes it easy to access and share your medical images through a secure website you can view on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. Patients receive a permanent, digital copy of imaging records — in full diagnostic quality — and can then email it to any health-care professional on the planet (or print it, if desired).

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Patients can opt for additional features through paid plans, such as personalized insights, deciphering medical jargon and more.

Skinopathy.
Skinopathy uses your smartphone’s camera to preliminarily screen your skin for potential cancers. Photo by Skinopathy Inc.

Skinopathy

With the free GetSkinHelp app from Skinopathy, use your smartphone’s camera to preliminarily screen your skin for potential cancers. Simply take a picture of the skin condition you’re concerned about, such as a suspicious mole, and you’ll receive an initial AI analysis and then be prompted to schedule an appointment with a health-care professional who can provide an official diagnosis and next steps.

At last week’s Collision Conference in Toronto, Skinopathy — a York Region-based company, headquartered just north of Toronto — CEO Keith Loo explained the AI works accurately for those with darker skin, which can be harder to detect with the naked eye, and thus a potentially dangerous condition could go undiagnosed until it’s at a later stage.

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Oncoustics

More than two billion people globally are living with (or at risk of) liver disease and because it’s mostly asymptomatic until advanced stages, most people don’t know they’re living with it, according to Beth Rogozinski, CEO of Oncoustics.

The Toronto-based company leverages its AI software to detect liver disease from ultrasounds, which can be performed with relatively inexpensive equipment by a technician within minutes, to differentiate healthy versus diseased tissues.

Awaiting FDA approval, this alternative to a biopsy may also be used for other organs, including kidneys, as well as potentially detect prostate, breast and thyroid diseases and cancers.

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YouTube Health

It’s not just the startups doing interesting work in health care. Google’s YouTube is looking to combat misinformation by expanding its YouTube Health initiative, which was launched in 2022.

The mega-popular platform is sharing vetted health-related videos from credible organizations, including Canadian institutions — like Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) — and now adding individual accredited doctors, nurses and mental-health professionals into the mix.

Knowledge is power.

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Precision Health by Telus Health

A new service in Calgary (to start), Telus Health’s Precision Health is a preventative health platform that gives you personalized information about your current and future health.

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Using advanced data analytics collected by whole-body imaging, genomics and bioanalytical insights (like proteins, hormones, metabolic markers and nutritional needs), it’s meant to be a holistic look at your health to create highly tailored strategies to keep you healthy and proactively address future risks — taking into account genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Interestingly, Precision Health may include a 3-D digital replica of the body, organs, muscles and tissues to create a “digital twin,” or virtual replica of yourself, to help in the process.

Packages start at $2,695.

A senior couple.
CareAware uses “Wi-Fi sensing” to track your aging loved one’s movements at home. Photo by Cognitive Systems

CareAware

While it sounds like science fiction, Waterloo-based Cognitive Systems is distributing CareAware, which uses “Wi-Fi sensing” to track your aging loved one’s movements at home to give you peace of mind as a remote caregiver, such as a son or granddaughter.

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That is, non-invasive wireless signals (not cameras) can let you know where your aging relatives are in the home and when to provide valuable real-time insights on an app.

For example, you will see if your elder relative is walking around the home all night or making frequent trips to the bathroom. Alternatively, you can be informed if there is no movement in the home at all or if the kitchen sensor hasn’t been triggered in, say, six or seven hours (to suggest someone, maybe with dementia, hasn’t eaten or taken medications during this time).

In partnership with U.S.-based Electronic Caregiver, the CareAware platform includes four user-friendly smart plugs that join your Wi-Fi network.

AlayaCare

Another “aging in place” solution is from Montreal-based AlayaCare, which is creating efficiencies for home-care providers so that people can age at home with dignity.

Powered by AWS, the company is experimenting with prediction models to see which patients are most at risk and then building that data into the workflow process for care providers to create even further efficiencies for them.

Featuring three health-care experts, a free one-hour video webinar about AI used in home-based care is available from AlayaCare, showcasing four use-cases on how AI and machine learning can drive better outcomes — including detecting risks early for your loved ones.

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